Wrong-headed criticism

It’s hard to explain the jumpiness with which the Socialist opposition leader follows and comments on the government’s foreign policy initiatives. Although Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is treading the same path as the Simitis administration (where George Papandreou served as foreign minister) and despite his cautious and low-profile handling of a number of foreign policy issues now at a crucial juncture, PASOK’s newly installed chairman comments on developments, not with arguments but with generalizations, speculation and crude remarks (he said Karamanlis behaved like a «tourist» at Buergenstock). If Papandreou, the beaten candidate in the March 7 ballot, believes that such behavior can help him build a dynamic profile in view of the coming European Parliament elections, then he is falling into yet another public relations pothole. Papandreou’s stand, ostensibly prompted by concern over whether the conservative government is doing a good job of safeguarding Greece’s foreign policy interests, fails to convince the public about the nobility of his motives. Every citizen is well aware of Papandreou’s views on the Cyprus issue, the future of Turkey’s relations with Greece and the EU, and Athens’s ties with Washington – they have become crystal-clear over the past five years. Papandreou’s diplomatic skill and assertiveness as foreign minister have long been assessed at home and abroad. Papandreou’s spasmodic, knee-jerk reactions are at odds with his much-hyped vision of a new era, free from fanaticism and reactionary ideas. It is striking that in his effort to overcome his shortcomings and criticism from his own party, Papandreou does not hesitate to resort to cheap shots on crucial issues of foreign policy. The smiling «child of change» unfortunately lacks the basic political skills and qualities it takes to resurrect a big political party like PASOK.

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